Next day morning, before I woke up from my sleep, Tang came back from the Tooth Relic Temple after his visit. He was an early bird. Next item in our agenda was to find out a way whether we can go to Dambulla and jump to Sigiriya on the same day. After talking to the hotel manager, he advised to stay in Dambulla for a night and then go to Sigiriya.
I and Tang decided to take a walk through the Kandy town. I kept my passport in my pant pocket and came out of the hotel. Tang was already waiting at the entrance of the hotel. We walked through the gallies of Kandy in search of some souvenirs and break fast! We walked for 20 mins and reached the main road (A1). We found a nice restaurant named “Devons”. String hopes is the main break fast dish there. Many combo offers are there to opt from. I chose String hopes with vegetable curry with lot of coconut in it. Tang chose String hopes with some kind of fish curry. Everything costed us around LKR 250.
All of the sudden, we decided to go to Dambulla and later decide whether to stay there or not. We walked back to Olde Empire Hotel. On the way back, we did shop some travelling essentials. We found a department store named- Cargills’. It’s graphics and look was very similar to our FoodWorld (in India). We bought some biscuits and soft drinks for the travel to Dambulla. We rushed to the hotel, packed up our bags and walked back to the Bus station.
Reaching at the bus station, we found that Kandy Railway station is just opposite to it. Out of curiosity, I went into the Railway station and enquired about the availability of train to Dambulla. Answer was negative. There is no train service to Dambulla. So, without much confusion, we crossed the road and started searching for a bus to Dambulla. There were a lot of airconditioned mini buses which served to Anuradhapura. Those buses go through Dambulla. Hence we got in to the one which start next. We got much comfortable seats as well. Dambulla should be in the map of every traveller to Sri Lanka. Reasons are many.
The city of Dambulla is situated in the Matale District in the Central Province of Sri Lanka, situated 148 km north-east of Colombo and 72 km north of Kandy. Major attractions of the city include the largest and best preserved cave temple complex of Sri Lanka, and for Cricket lovers, the Rangiri Dambulla International Stadium, famous for being built in just 167 days.
Though it is only 72 kms, it took more than 3 hours to reach Dambulla from Kandy. Main reason for the slowness is the curvy turvy ghat roads all the way down from the hill top. We started our journey at around 11am. It was damn hot outside despite being at the top of a hill station! As usual I was sleeping for most of the time. In between when I opened my eyes, I could see Tang was also sleeping. Even the driver was yawning! By 2:15pm, we started seeing boards named with Dambulla. We saw a huge Buddha statue on the left side. When asked to the conductor, he told that stop is just a few meters ahead. And that bugger drove for another 5 kms. Somehow, we got down at some bigger junction. We two walked back from that junction to the place where we saw the Buddha statue. Both of us were tired with hunger. We found a small restaurant and had food. I had the same string hopes again- successfully. Tang was lucky enough to get something better- Chicken Fried rice!
We located a small home stay named Hailey’s in Lonely planet. We asked some local people about the home stay and found where it is. It was almost near the place where we saw the Buddha statue. We could find out one room there. It costed LKR 1600. The house keeper was a lady. She told that the temple is just in a walkable distance. We took some rest for a while. By 3:30, we had a cup of black coffee and started for Dambulla Cave temple.
Dambulla is thought to be inhabited from as early as the 7th to 3rd century BC. Statues and paintings in these caves date back to the 1st century BC. But the paintings and statues were repaired and repainted in 11th, 12th, and 18th century AD. The caves in the city provided refuge to King Valagamba (also called Vattagamini Abhaya) in his 14 year long exile from the Anuradapura kingdom. Buddhist monks meditating in the caves of Dambulla at that time provided the exiled king protection from his enemies. When King Valagamba returned to the throne at Anuradapura kingdom in the 1st century BC, he had a magnificent rock temple built at Dambulla as a gratitude to the monks in Dambulla.
Ibbankatuwa Prehistoric burial site near Dhambulla, where prehistoric (2700 years old) human skeletons were found according to scientific analysis gives evidence on civilisations in this area long before arrival of Buddhism in Sri Lanka. Evidence of ancient people living on agriculture have been detected in this area for over 2700 years according to archaeological findings. (750 BC)
It was earlier known as Dhamballai. This was ruled by Kings like Raja Raja Chola, Rajendra Chola, etc. during their tenure in the late 10th century and early 11th century.
Dambulla cave temple is on top of a local hill in the plains of the town. It has an elevation of 160+ meters. It has a Buddhist monastery as well as many shrines in it. There are more than 80 documented caves in the surrounding area. There are total of 153 Buddha statues, 3 statues of Sri Lankan kings and 4 statues of gods and goddesses. The latter include two statues of Hindu gods, the god Vishnu and the god Ganesh. The murals cover an area of 2,100 square meters. Depictions on the walls of the caves include the temptation by the demon Mara, and Buddha’s first sermon.
Still it is said that, Prehistoric Sri Lankans would have lived in these cave complexes before the arrival of Buddhism in Sri Lanka as there are burial sites with human skeletons about 2700 years old in this area, at Ibbankatuwa near the Dambulla cave complexes.